Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:1 Samuel 1:1. Ramathaim-zophim — The latter word means watchers, or watchmen, and the former the Ramahs. The place is called Ramah, (1 Samuel 1:19,) and seems to have been a village situated on two hills, which, on account of their elevation, commanded extensive prospects, and were proper places from which to make observations. Probably there might be a watch-tower and sentinels placed in each. Of mount Ephraim — This is added to distinguish this from other places, which had the name of Ramah in other tribes, particularly in that of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25. An Ephrathite — That is, one of Beth-lehem-judah, by his birth and habitation, though by his origin a Levite.
And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.1 Samuel 1:2. He had two wives — As many had in those days, though it was a transgression of the original institution of marriage. Hannah seems to have been his first wife; and as she proved barren, he was induced, it is probable, through his earnest desire of children, to take another, as Abraham had done, by Sarah’s consent.
And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.1 Samuel 1:3. To worship in Shiloh — Where the tabernacle now was, and where all sacrifices were to be offered. Hither all the males were bound to resort at the three great annual feasts, (Deuteronomy 16:16,) and not to appear before the Lord empty. Accordingly Elkanah not only worshipped God with prayers and thanksgivings, but offered such sacrifices as were suitable to the festival. Not that he sacrificed in his own person, which the Levites were not permitted to do, but by the priests. Hophni and Phinehas were there — Or, were the priests of the Lord there, under their father Eli, who is generally conceived to have been the high-priest, but being very old and infirm, his sons ministered in his stead. This is the first time in Scripture that God is called the Lord of hosts or armies. Probably Samuel was the first who used this title of God, for the comfort of Israel, at the time when their armies were few and feeble, and those of their enemies many and mighty.
And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:1 Samuel 1:4. Portions — Of those parts of the peace-offerings which belonged to the offerer. These were the whole, except the fat, which belonged to the Lord, and the breast and right shoulder, which were due to the priest, Leviticus 7:34; with the rest the sacrificer made a feast for himself, his family, and friends, giving to every one a portion of the sacrifice, as the master of the feast used to do to the guests. And they ate all before the Lord, and hereby were supposed to have communion with him, by partaking with him of his sacrifices, which had been offered to him at his altar.
But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.1 Samuel 1:5-6. Unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion — Or, a double portion; in token of his extraordinary respect and kindness to her. For he loved Hannah: but the Lord — Or, though the Lord, had shut her womb — Her barrenness did not cause him to love her less, but rather more; because he would comfort her under her affliction. To abate our just love to any relations for the sake of any infirmity which they cannot help, is to add affliction to the afflicted. Her adversary also provoked her sore — Peninnah, through envy or jealousy, set herself against her, though so nearly related to her, and strove to vex her by upbraiding her with her barrenness.
And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.1 Samuel 1:7. As he did so year by year when she went, &c. — This circumstance is noted as the occasion of the contention, because at such times they were forced to more society with one another, by the way, and in their lodgings; whereas, at home they had distinct apartments, where they might be asunder, and then her husband’s extraordinary love and kindness were showed to Hannah, whereby Peninnah was the more exasperated; then also Hannah prayed earnestly for a child, which hitherto she had done in vain; and this possibly she reproached her with. So she provoked her — She constantly took this occasion to upbraid her with her barrenness when Elkanah expressed such extraordinary kindness to her. Therefore she wept, and did not eat — Being overwhelmed with grief, she had no inclination to eat on this festival occasion, nor did she consider herself as fit to partake of the sacred food, which they were forbid to eat in their mourning.
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?1 Samuel 1:8. Am not I better to thee than ten sons — Oughtest thou not to value my love to thee more than the having as many sons as Peninnah hath; who would willingly change conditions with thee? In Elkanah here we have an example of a most excellent husband; who patiently bore with the insolent humour of Peninnah, and comforted dejected Hannah with words full of tender affection.
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.1 Samuel 1:9. So Hannah rose up — The kind words of her husband in a great measure removed her sorrow, and induced her to eat and drink cheerfully. In her we have an example of a dutiful wife; who, sensible of her husband’s kindness, endeavoured to please him, by complying with his desires, and avoiding what she perceived would give pain to his mind. Eli sat upon a seat — Hebrew, הכסאhachissee, a throne, it being a seat raised up to some height, to make him conspicuous to all that entered into the house of God; at the door of which he sat, either as judge, or as high-priest, to hear and answer such as came to him for advice, and to inspect and direct the worship of God. By a post of the temple — That is, of the tabernacle, which is frequently so called; as the temple, when it was built, is called a tabernacle. See Jeremiah 10:20; Lamentations 2:6.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.1 Samuel 1:10. She was in bitterness of soul — Oppressed with grief, which returned when she was alone, and thought of her barrenness, which made her pray, with many tears, for a child. They had newly offered their peace- offerings, to obtain the favour of God; and in token of their communion with him, they had feasted upon the sacrifice: and now it was proper to put up her prayer, in virtue of the sacrifice. For the peace-offerings typified Christ’s mediation, as well as the sin-offerings: since by this not only atonement is made for sin, but an answer to our prayers obtained.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head.1 Samuel 1:11. But wilt give unto thy handmaid — She thrice calls herself God’s handmaid, out of a profound sense of her meanness, and his majesty. And she desires a man-child, because only such could wait upon the Lord in the service of the tabernacle, as she intended her son should do, if God bestowed one upon her. Then will I give him unto the Lord — That is, consecrate him to his service in his house. No razor shall come upon his head — He shall be a perpetual Nazarite, part of whose description this is, Numbers 6:5.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.1 Samuel 1:12-13. She continued praying — Hebrew, multiplied to pray. By which it appears that she said much more than is here expressed. And in the same light we must view most of the prayers and sermons of other holy persons recorded in the Scriptures, which give us only the sum and substance of what they expressed. This consideration may assist us much in interpreting many passages of Holy Writ. Eli marked her mouth — The inward anguish of her soul probably made the motions of her mouth and countenance very different from what is usual. Therefore Eli thought she had been drunken — Hearing her say nothing, but only seeing her lips move a long time, with such gestures, it is likely, of her body, hands, and eyes, as argued very great commotion of mind, being occasioned by the vehemence of her desire and grief, and her fervency in prayer, he took her to be disordered with the wine she had drunk at the forementioned feast.
Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.
Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.1 Samuel 1:16. Count not thy handmaid for a daughter of Belial, &c. — A Scripture phrase for a wicked person. Thus, when we are unjustly censured, we should endeavour not only to clear ourselves, but to satisfy our brethren, by giving them a just and true account of what they misapprehended.
Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.1 Samuel 1:17-18. Eli said, Go in peace, &c. — Her modest and respectful answer fully satisfied him, and he prayed that God would grant her petition, or, as the Chaldee interprets his words, assured her, that the God of Israel would grant it her. Let thy handmaid find grace in thy sight —
That favourable opinion and gracious prayer which thou hast expressed on my behalf, be pleased to continue toward me. Her countenance was no more sad — Her heart being cheered by the priest’s comfortable words, and especially by the Spirit of God applying them to her mind, and inspiring her with confidence, that both his and her prayers would be heard, she departed from the tabernacle with such satisfaction and assurance, that there no longer remained any token of sorrow or grief in her countenance.
And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.1 Samuel 1:19-20. The Lord remembered her — Manifested his remembrance of her by the effect. She called his name Samuel — That is, asked of God. Saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord — This was the reason of the name; and she gave it him, that he, as well as she, might keep in mind that he was solemnly dedicated to the Lord, from whom he had been obtained by prayer, and that, remembering how God had evidently heard prayer in this instance, they might the more readily and confidently have recourse to him in all trials and troubles, and put their trust in him.
Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.
And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.1 Samuel 1:21. Elkanah and all his house went up — Hannah only and her child excepted. And his vow — By which it appears, though it was not expressed before, that he heard and consented to her vow; and that he added a vow of his own; probably when he saw his wife was with child; or before, when she told him what hope she had that her prayers would be heard; and when he worshipped God, as mentioned 1 Samuel 1:19.
But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.1 Samuel 1:22. I will not go up till the child be weaned — Not only from the breast, but from the mother’s knee and care, and childish food. She was not bound by the law to go up with her husband; and therefore, though she had been wont to go, she resolved, as became a prudent woman, to stay at home, till the child was so far grown up, as not only to be strong enough to accompany her, but capable of being instructed in the service of the tabernacle, and of being useful therein. For, it seems, as soon as he was brought thither he worshipped God, (1 Samuel 1:28,) and, soon after, ministered to Eli, 1 Samuel 2:11.
And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.1 Samuel 1:23. Only the Lord establish his word — We do not read of any thing the Lord had spoken about this child: but, perhaps Elkanah looked upon what Eli had said as spoken by God, because he was God’s high-priest. The Hebrew, however, may be rendered with equal propriety, The Lord establish his work; that is, may he perfect what he hath begun, by making the child grow up, and become fit for God’s service, that he may be employed therein and accepted of God. For the word דברdabar, signifies any matter or thing, as well as word.
And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.1 Samuel 1:24. With three bullocks, &c. — As they were not to appear before the Lord empty, so upon this occasion they brought an ample offering to him, to testify their gratitude. And it is highly probable that one of these bullocks was wholly offered to God as a burnt-offering, and the other two were peace-offerings; or, as some rather think, one a sin-offering, and the other a peace-offering. One ephah of flour — For the meat or meal- offerings, which to each bullock were three tenth-deals, or three tenth parts of an ephah; and so nine parts of the ephah were spent, and the tenth part was given to the priest. Wine — For drink-offerings.
And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.1 Samuel 1:25-27. They slew a bullock — The three bullocks mentioned 1 Samuel 1:22, the singular number being put for the plural, which is frequent. As thy soul liveth — As surely as thou livest. Which asseveration she thought necessary, because this was some years after the fact which she here mentions. For this child I prayed — She had told him nothing of what she prayed for when he reproved her; but only, in general, that she was extremely afflicted for want of something, which she then earnestly begged of God. But now she acquaints him with it, and with the vow she had made if God would grant her desire, which vow she was now come to fulfil.
And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.
For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.1 Samuel 1:28. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord — But not with a purpose to require him again. Whatever we give to the Lord may, upon this account, be said to be lent to him, because, though we may not recall it, yet he will certainly repay it to our unspeakable advantage. As long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord — Or, as the words may be properly translated, All the days that he shall be desired for the Lord; that is, as long as God shall think fit to employ him in his own house: which was till he made him a judge, 1 Samuel 7:15. Then he was no longer fixed at Shiloh, but went about the country, to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh; afterward he settled at his own house in Ramah, as we read there, 1 Samuel 1:17. Still, however, he was wholly the Lord’s and lived entirely to him, employing all his powers of body and mind in his service. And he worshipped the Lord there — Not Eli, but young Samuel, who is spoken of in this and the foregoing verse, and who was capable of worshipping the Lord in some sort, at least with external worship. The Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, however, translate the words: And they worshipped the Lord.